Bellator 79 Preview

November 1, 2012

Bellator Fighting Championships heads back to Canada for the second time in Season 7 with two semifinal matchups and four heavy-hitting welterweights. In the heavyweight division, Thiago Santos meets Rich Hale and featherweights Mike Richman and Shahbulat Shamhalaev collide in semifinal matchups. Welterweight tournament champion Douglas Lima and Canadian fan favorite Ryan Ford both return to the Bellator cage, this Friday at Bellator 79 at 8/7c on MTV2 and EPIX2.

Santos and Hale square off in what will be contrast of heavyweight frames. Santos, a gigantic heavyweight, cuts to make the 265 pound limit, while Hale competes in the division for just the second time in years since making the move up from light heavyweight. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Santos' heavy top game was on full display as he came incredibly close to several submissions against Eric Prindle in the quarterfinals. Their rematch came to a bizarre conclusion, as an illegal groin kick from Prindle gave "Big Monster" the disqualification victory with seconds remaining in the first. Despite being outsized by everyone in the field, Hale and his opponents are quickly finding out that speed kills. "Rare Breed" tore through Mike Wessel in the quarterfinals, starching him on the feet early on and displaying unrelenting ground and pound to earn the quickest stoppage of the heavyweight quarterfinals. Hale has won his last three fights, all first-round TKOs, in a combined two minutes and 15 seconds.

In a featherweight semifinal, Richman and Shamhalaev both look to build on first round victories in the quarterfinals. Shamhalaev displayed powerful, pinpoint ground and pound, shutting down Cody Bollinger's grappling to get the stoppage late in the first. It was the third knockout win for the once-beaten Russian. He'll meet striking enthusiast Richman in the semifinals. Coming off an 83-second knockout in his Bellator debut, Richman's sophomore performance figured to be less emphatic by default. "The Marine" missed the memo and delivered the most stunning finish in the quarterfinals, as he finished Jeremy Spoon in just 23 seconds with a head kick. Between knockout power in his hands and feet, plus a wrestling base to fall back on, Richman is arguably the man to beat in the 145-pound field.

Season 5 welterweight tournament champion Lima returns to Bellator for the first time since his failed title bid to Ben Askren, as he faces Kobe Ortiz. Ortiz found himself getting outclassed early on in his Bellator debut last October, as UFC-veteran Edgar Garcia was getting the best of the striking. Garcia ill-advisedly dropped his hands and pointed to his chin, before Ortiz obliged him and shut the lights off four minutes into the first. With five wins by knockout, future opponents certainly have Ortiz's heavy hands on their radar. The same can be said for Lima, as his devastating overhand right claimed Chris Lozano and Ben Saunders as victims in his successful tournament run. Lima had his nine-fight winning streak derailed by Askren in a title fight, but nevertheless remains one of the most dangerous and explosive athletes at 170 pounds.

In a second featured welterweight bout, Ford makes his second appearance in Bellator against Kyle Baker. Virginia native Baker makes his Bellator debut, having scored nine wins by knockout in 12 career victories. He's scored finishes over big show vets Drew Fickett, LeVon Maynard and Chad Reiner. Canadian fan favorite Ford enters the Bellator cage riding momentum from an impressive comeback in his debut. The Edmonton native found himself in trouble early against Brazilian veteran Luis Santos, but kept his composure and scored a TKO win in the second. It was business as usual for the Tristar product, who has scored finishes in all of his last 10 wins.

Before the main card airs, presents live prelims at 7e/4p on Capoeira enthusiast Marcus Aurelio makes his much anticipated Bellator debut as he battles fellow welterweight Christ Franck. A pair of unbeaten heavyweights collide, as Vladimir Starcencov takes on Vitaly Minakov. Check out the full Bellator 79 card.

Bellator 79 is live Friday, November 2 at 8/7c on MTV2 and EPIX2
Prelims are live at 7e/4p on

Image: Eric Coleman /Eric Coleman Photography /Bellator Fighting Championships